I awoke in the middle of the night. The bed was shaking, and I could hear a door rattling. The shaking wasn’t violent, in fact, it was quite gentle, but it was going on for a long time. Then there were a couple of strong jolts. I shook my husband awake. “Earthquake!” I said. I figure if it’s going to get worse, I want him awake with me. He didn’t believe me. So we argued about it, as the ground shook, gently again. It went on for a long time. Earthquake seconds are much much slower than lying-in-bed seconds, or hearing-a-noise-outside seconds. I knew that the length of this earthquake, the longest I’d ever experienced, meant that someone, somewhere, was having a horrible time. As usual, after an earthquake, I felt shaken, no pun intended. It’s a reminder of how precarious this city is, built on major fault lines, of how precarious our house is, built on stilts. It makes me think, “should I wear warm, seemly clothes to bed?”
We went back to sleep, and awoke in the morning to hear that the earthquake had been in Christchurch, the city where we met at university. “Christchurch!” was our shocked reaction. Earthquakes are supposed to happen in Napier,
or Wellington, or the Bay of Plenty.
Earthquakes are not supposed to hit Christchurch. (Update: Link to some images of the damage.)
It turns out the earthquake was a 7.1 on the Richter scale, the same size as the Haiti earthquake. The fact that it occurred at 4.35 am was a life-saver. There were no fatalities. Power was restored to most of the city by the end of the day. Water and sewerage lines are slowly being brought back online. But there have been over a hundred after-shocks, and damage reports are growing. Old brick houses and buildings, including heritage buildings, are crumbling under the pressure, even if they survived the initial shock. Hundreds are being cared for in shelters. There are increasing reports of people suffering from trauma. Those of us living in Wellington are also in shock. We know that it could have been, should have been us. We are, for the moment, grateful it was not, and so, almost guiltily, we send our love to our friends and family in Christchurch.